Zorn in the Royal Collections

"Now it's time to paint the old man!" This is how the artist Anders Zorn was greeted by King Oskar II when he arrived at the Royal Palace one winter's day in 1898 to paint the king's portrait. During his lifetime, Zorn painted twelve royal portraits.

King Oskar II wanted to be painted in the Life Guards' light blue mounted uniform, but Zorn had other ideas and replied that such a portrait "will be painted – but not by me".

"… not as a soldier, but as a patron and practitioner of the arts and sciences."

The king was furious. Zorn explained that if he were to have the chance to paint his king, he intended to paint him as he knew him – and that he knew him "not as a soldier, but as a patron and practitioner of the arts and sciences". The king relented and the portrait was painted with the king sitting in his audience chamber in society wear, with the Seraphim ribbon across his chest. On his lapel we can glimpse a medal that the king received for saving lives in France – of all the orders and medals that Oskar II wanted to wear, this was the only one that Zorn deemed worthy. The king was delighted with the completed portrait, and embraced Zorn several times.

Royal portraits by Anders Zorn

During his lifetime, Anders Zorn completed twelve royal portraits – the first when he was just 26 years old. This first portrait depicted princes Gustaf Adolf and Vilhelm, aged 4 and 2, with their large red dog which had been a gift from the Emperor of Germany. The princes' parents, Crown Prince Gustaf and Crown Princess Viktoria, took it in turns to keep an eye on their sons.

The final royal portrait painted by Zorn shows Crown Princess Margareta sitting at her desk in the living room of the family's apartment at the Royal Palace. This is a portrait of a clearly private nature. The Crown Princess has an art book in front of her, and is delicately touching her pearl necklace. Like many others of Zorn's portraits, this is almost more of a psychological study than a pure depiction.


Watercolour, 1886
A copy of the painting hangs in King Oskar II's Study at the Royal Palace. The original was destroyed during the Second World War.


Etching, 1891


Oil, 1897
The Life Guard, Stockholm


Oil, 1898
The portrait can be seen in the Bernadotte Gallery at the Royal Palace.

Oil, 1898 (study)
Private ownership

Etching, 1898


Etching, 1900


Oil, 1909
Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde

KING Gustaf V

Oil, 1909
Stora Kopparbergs Bergslags Aktiebolag, Falun, now Stora Enso.


Oil, 1910
The portrait can be seen in the Bernadotte Gallery at the Royal Palace.


Oil, 1910
Prince Eugen's Waldemarsudde


Etching, 1914
There is a copy of this etching at Ulriksdal Palace.

Anders Zorn King Oskar II Royal Palace

Anders Zorn's first meeting with King Oskar II did not start off well, but in the end the king was more than satisfied with the result. Photo: Alexis Daflos/Royalpalaces.se

Etching of Prince Eugen

Anders Zorn's etching of Prince Eugen, 1891. Photo: Alexis Daflos/Royalpalaces.se

Queen Sofia Anders Zorn Royal Palace

Queen Dowager Sofia, painted by Zorn in 1909. The oil painting is in the Bernadotte Gallery at the Royal Palace. Photo: Alexis Daflos/Royalpalaces.se

Anders Zorn Crown Princess Margareta Ulriksdal Palace

Zorn's final royal portrait was of Crown Princess Margareta. This 1914 etching hangs in a room at Ulriksdal Palace.

The Royal Collections Opens in new window. have grown over a period of more than 400 years, from the time of King Gustav Vasa to the present day. They include everything from decorative pieces of international significance to humble utensils. Works of art, paintings, furniture, textiles – most of the collections can be seen when visiting the royal palaces.

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